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Growth has mirrored population

The new Emergency Department at River Oaks Hospital in Flowood will be nearly three times larger than the 3,454-square-foot original space, and will have the capacity to treat twice as many patients. Accessible by Flowood Drive, it will be located on the south end of the hospital.

The new Emergency Department at River Oaks Hospital in Flowood will be nearly three times larger than the 3,454-square-foot original space, and will have the capacity to treat twice as many patients. Accessible by Flowood Drive, it will be located on the south end of the hospital.

River Oaks continues expansion with emergency department, surgical suites opening in spring

Perched on the edge of one of the most consistently fastest-growing counties in Mississippi over the last two decades, River Oaks Hospital in Flowood has mirrored the population spike with expansions since its original development in 1981.

Right after the summer solstice, River Oaks began construction on an $8-million high-tech Emergency Department that will include new private treatment rooms, specialty care rooms and emergency-specific imaging services. It will be housed in 12,000 square feet of River Oaks’ new 145,000-square-foot tower that opened last summer. A new NICU, nursery, postpartum unit and medical/surgical unit were the first areas to open in the new building. Specifically, the Emergency Room will be housed in 9,918 square feet; imaging services will take up 2,086 square feet.

The new Emergency Department will be approximately three times larger than the 3,454-square-foot original space, and will have the capacity to treat twice as many patients. Accessible by Flowood Drive, it will be located on the south end of the hospital.

“We have to grow with this community,” said River Oaks CEO Denny Bruns, FACHE, who celebrated two years in June with Health Management Associates (NYSE: HMA), the Naples, Fla.-based parent company of River Oaks. “Our hospital was one of the first major medical facilities located in the county just off Lakeland Drive and now, nearly 30 years later, we’re again enlarging our footprint. Emergency care services are an important part of a community, and we’re here to proactively provide the capacity to treat the people we serve.”

The construction project resulted from the certificate of need River Oaks filed Feb. 23, 2009, and was approved four months later for $8.06 million.  The expanded Emergency Department is slated to open next spring.

“We’d already designated areas in the original design for the Vision project to include these services — the ORs and ED — and we’ve been very fortunate to put these new services into the new building instead of having to go into an existing OR and design space around staff and patient flow,” said Jackie McGowan, vice president of facilities management and planning at River Oaks. “It’s been one of the easier projects we’ve done here.”

The Vision project was slated to begin in late 2005. “Hurricane Katrina (which made landfall on Aug. 29) put us a year behind,” noted McGowan. “Since then, we’ve been blessed that the weather hasn’t caused delays to our projects. We’ve been able to finish on schedule and on budget, and provide the services our doctors ultimately wanted to have in that building.”

Chris Cole, field engineer, MJ Harris; Jackie McGowan, vice president of facilities management and planning; Mickey Fender, assistant superintendent, MJ Harris

Chris Cole, field engineer, MJ Harris; Jackie McGowan, vice president of facilities management and planning; Mickey Fender, assistant superintendent, MJ Harris

Also in the new tower, River Oaks is constructing three additional surgery suites, adding nearly 20,000 square feet of surgical space to the existing department. Each suite is twice as large as the hospital’s average surgery rooms. Two of the three suites are being relocated from the existing surgery department; the existing ORs will then be converted to simple procedure rooms.

“As is true with most hospitals built in the 1980s or before, the ORs were small,” said Bruns. “Now with state-of-the-art technology, and especially robotic services, we needed bigger, more flexible surgery suites. River Oaks has already acquired a da Vinci surgical system used for hysterectomy, prostatectomy, bariatric surgery and general surgery.”

HealthGrades recently rated River Oaks the state’s leading spine surgery center, and among the top 5 percent in the nation. “We’re very fortunate that HealthGrades has given us our number one distinction,” said Bruns. “We’ve also been rated number one in spine surgery, joint replacement and orthopedic surgery. It’s a real honor to have this bestowed upon us. It’s the hospital’s responsibility to keep pace with surgeons’ needs to get patients in and out with as few complications as possible and with absolutely great outcomes.”

The new multi-purpose ORs will feature the Laminar air flow system, a more expensive yet cleaner air system, explained McGowan, that reduces the risk of infections. “When we get these finished,” he said, “it will give us four Laminar air flow rooms, which is significant for our market area.”

Once the construction is completed next April, River Oaks will have 18 operating rooms that include two cesarean section rooms. Last year, 1,937 babies were born at River Oaks. Combined with its HMA sister facility, Woman’s Hospital, 3,499 babies were born in 2009. “That’s more than the University of Mississippi Medical Center,” noted Bruns.”

River Oaks remains the only hospital in the state with the MAKO surgical system, which allows surgeons to perform a minimally invasive partial knee procedure. “Both the da Vinci and the MAKO allow for a shorter hospital stay, quicker recovery and the ability for our patients to return to daily life,” he said.

In the last seven years alone, Rankin County has grown by 20 percent. An anticipated 7 percent additional growth is projected within the next five years, bringing the total population to slightly more than 150,000.

“We’ll soon add 41 beds to the new tower at River Oaks, which we just got a CON approved for, and that’ll bring us to 191 total beds,” said Bruns, “Once we’ve completed that, we have other projects on our books. For example, some of our med/surg rooms need a little overhauling, and we’ll invest in other areas of the hospital. We’ll spread it out over a few years.”

When the construction projects are completed, including the increase in number of hospital beds, the size of the hospital staff is expected to jump from 800 to 1,200 at capacity, said Bruns.

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About Lynne W. Jeter

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